There are as many types of canoe as there are uses for them. Functional diversity of the canoe resulted with an equal diversity in forms and sizes. The biggest, the double hull, measured up to 30 meters and could carry up to 300 people. Travel canoes required great strength and should be able to accommodate for a long time, people, animals and necessary resources for the journey.

  • Fishing canoes were similar to lagoon canoe or va’a motu that we know today. Some were particularly adapted to certain types of fishing, like the one called tira, made for catching tuna or ‘ahi with a living bait.
  • Also, each archipelago (Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambier…) had specificities that distinguished them from each other.
  1. “War canoes”. Tahiti, 1774. W. Hodges, Mitchell Library
  2. Sailing canoe from Tahiti. XVIII century. Ngraved by Croisey.
  3. Marquesan canoe. Cl. Ch. Antig, Mitchell Library
  4. Traveling canoe of Tuamotu.
  5. “A war canoe”. Drawing, 1769, S. Parkinson, British Museum.
  6. “War boats of the island of Otaheite” Tahiti 1774. Oil painting by W. Hodges. Admiralty House.
  7. Fishing scene around 1800. Anonymous drawing, Mitchell Library.
  8. “Obereah’s pirogue”. Tahiti, drawing of Sporing, British Library.


Canoe at otaheete

Watercolor by J. Webber, National Libray of Australia.